Dr. Matthew Dewar
Toward the end of my junior year of high school, I read this line by Henry David Thoreau and it rocked my world: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” It was a haunting thought that most people quietly suffer through their lives and never truly live or become the person they’re capable of becoming. What was even more haunting, though, was that a month before I read this line, I watched my grandpa die of cancer. And in the months and weeks leading up to his death, I heard his “quiet desperation” become loud.
One afternoon, just weeks before his death, he sat in his rocking chair by the living room window when he started to cry. My mom asked if he was OK and he said “no.” She asked if she should call for help and he said, “No, no — it’s not that.” He sat quietly for a few moments and then said, “I’ve lived 84 years and I don’t know what this life is about and there isn’t enough time to fix it.”
A few days after his death, I found in his home an old shoebox filled with faded black and white photographs. In one particular photograph he stood tall and proud on a pier. Behind him the ocean stretched to the horizon. Beside him fish hung by their gills on a board suspended between two wooden posts. Above him the sun beat down on his face, revealing a smile that said there was nowhere else he would rather be.
As I held the photograph in my hand, I began to wonder how my grandpa imagined his future as he stood on that pier. I wondered if it had ever crossed his mind that one day he’d stare out the living room window and cry because he had lived his life without ever pausing to consider “what this life was about.” I wondered if it had ever crossed his mind that he would someday become nothing more than an image in a fading photograph, tucked away in a shoebox.
But the more I looked at my grandpa in the photograph, the more I saw myself. Did it ever cross my mind that I might live a life of quiet desperation? Did it ever cross my mind that I would someday become nothing more than an image in a fading photograph, tucked away in a shoebox?
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If I were to list the major events of my life on a timeline, my grandfather’s sickness and death would mark a pivotal “before and after” moment that changed me in profound ways. Standing near the epicenter of human fragility shook me out of childhood ignorance, and it restructured how I understood myself, my values, and my aspirations. Most importantly, it planted the seed of an insight that now drives my work with JOURNEY 30K: As long as we ignore our mortality, we deny ourselves the possibility of uncovering what each one us can make of our lives.
After my grandfather’s passing, exploring my own possibilities led me to the other side of the world and, more importantly, deep within myself. By the time I graduated from college, I had lived in a Buddhist monastery, majored in religion and philosophy, and developed committed mindfulness and martial arts practices. Once I graduated college, I channeled these personal and academic pursuits into teaching.
For the last fifteen years, I’ve been a high school educator with a number of roles: coach, English and Wellness teacher, learning facilitator, and well-being coordinator. As my professional roles change and evolve, the question of what it means to live a meaningful life continues to drive my work with students and colleagues. Most of all, it’s been my daily classroom experiences that have forged a personal and professional mission to help people of all ages discover and live their best lives. Now JOURNEY 30K is the next step in my personal and professional evolution, providing an expanded platform to share my passion and expertise.
Doctorate in Curriculum Studies and Philosophy of Education (with a research concentration in health and well-being)
Masters in Education: Curriculum and Instruction for Health and Wellness Education
Masters of Arts in Teaching
Bachelors in Religion and Philosophy
Academic publications (book)
Education and Well-Being: An Ontological Inquiry (Palgrave Macmillan)
Certified Wellness Practitioner - National Wellness Institute
Certified Worksite Wellness Consultant and Certified Faculty Member - WELCOA
Certified in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Teens (MBSR-T) - Stressed Teens
Certified in Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Children and Teens - PESI